21 Bridges follows NYPD detective Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman) who leads a citywide manhunt for a pair of cop killers (Stephan James and Taylor Kitsch). Davis’ relentless pursuit also uncovers a massive conspiracy, and lines become blurred on whom he is pursuing – and who is after him. When the search intensifies, extreme measures are taken to prevent the killers from escaping Manhattan, as Davis directs the authorities to close all 21 bridges to prevent any entry or exit from the iconic island.
An intriguing mix of spectacle, propulsive and non-stop action, an epic “ticking clock” crime story, the explosive movie unfolds during a single night, after a drug heist gone horribly wrong results in the deaths of eight cops. Det. Andre Davis devises the desperate but ingenious plan to close down Manhattan, to enable him and his team to entrap the two perpetrators, who’ll have no place to flee in the sealed-off island.
The film is totally exhilarating and puts you in the center of a gripping crime drama that pulls you in and won’t let go. While the social potency points to the film’s rich and layered social commentary, much of it focused on the sometimes-thin line that exists between cop and perpetrator, and all brought to life by characters with surprising nuances. There are surprising layers as the narrative progresses, blurring the lines between protagonist and antagonist.
Taylor Kitsch and Stephan James portray, respectively, Ray and Michael, close friends and small-time thieves whose latest heist triggers a massive manhunt after they stumble upon an enormous cache of cocaine – and then kill several cops during their escape.
Ray and Michael’s fates were sealed the moment they took off with the huge payload. Ray is an old school military guy from the roughest part of the Bronx – having fought and survived, as one character says, “World War Crack.” Ray lost his best friend – Michael’s brother – in combat overseas.
Michael’s friendship with Ray, and most of his decisions, stem from him joining the military to follow in his brother’s footsteps, only to see him killed in the line of duty. Says Stephan James: “Michael then found himself in a situation where he needed to make money. Using his military training, he found a new line of work: stealing drugs. Michael sees Ray as an extension of his older brother, and they have known each other for practically their whole lives and have found comfort and trust in each other.”
Though the bonds between the two men are inextricable, James notes that, “Michael and Ray are two totally different people. Michael’s a lot smarter and more practical, whereas Ray is just ready for anything, all of the time. But in the end, they’re both just running for their lives.”
Michael’s ties to Ray make him an inevitable if not an unwilling partner in the heist and subsequent killings and manhunt. The audience can experience his innate intelligence and tragic circumstances. You understand that he’s not the man events present him as. He’s come under the protection of his brother’s best friend, Ray, and now finds himself in the most dangerous place someone can be.”
The Koalition spoke to James about his transforming role and more.
21 Bridges will release in theaters on November 22nd.
Check out our interview below.